Tuesday night’s friendly work out at Fulwood Amateurs was beneficial for Lancaster City boss Phil Brown in more ways than one.
He watched his men produce a decent display to secure their second victory of pre-season by beating the West Lancashire League outfit 5-2, which followed the 3-2 success over Northwich Victoria on Saturday.
The trip to Lightfoot Lane also offered Brown the chance to catch up with his old mentor and former Dolly Blues manager Tony Hesketh, who now manages Fulwood.
The pair were very much sorcerer and apprentice when they worked together at Giant Axe a few years ago.
Hesketh – with Brown as his assistant – led City to the cusp of promotion to the NPL Premier Division in 2009-10 when they finished in second place in the First Division North – four points behind eventual champions FC Halifax Town.
In the subsequent play-offs, Lancaster were beaten in the final 1-0 by Colwyn Bay – a team they had finished 21 points ahead in the normal season.
The pair left the club a few years later but when the managerial vacancy at City came up towards the end of 2015 following the departure of Darren Peacock, Brown landed the job with a ringing endorsement from Hesketh.
And he certainly lived up to his billing by guiding the club to the title last year in his first full season in charge.
Brown admits he still keeps in regular contact with his old boss and says it’s always good to get his perspective of things. “We’ve played Fulwood a few times now so I have become accustomed to being in the opposite dugout to Tony,” Brown said.
“I still speak to him quite regularly in between our games on Saturdays. He doesn’t live too far away from me.
“He always cons me into buying him a pint or a coffee, but I suppose that’s my duty being the younger guy.
“It’s always good to see him and chat about football. He has still got his finger on the pulse in terms of the semi-pro game, so he’s still got a few words of wisdom.”
Although pre-season is all about fitness work and getting minutes in the legs of players, Brown has been pleased with the performances so far especially as he is looking to change their style of play ahead of the new season, which begins for City with an away game at Matlock Town on August 18.
“It’s going to be a bit different this season to how we set up before,” said Brown.
“Before we were a bit more pragmatic, more of a counter-attacking team.
“But all of a sudden I am now asking the players to be a lot braver, to get on the ball and make good decisions obviously.
“I want us to try to dictate, that’s how I want us to go, but it’s not going to happen overnight.
“Not only do we need to develop relationships between players , but it’s also going to be a different challenge to some players.
“If you look at now, early pre-season, we have conceded four goals and probably the mindset is not too defend as diligently as maybe we will need to do when the season starts.
“I am willing to put that to one side for now, if we are developing the possession side of the game, but there will come a time when we will have to do the ugly side of the game.
“But at this moment in time, it’s about me challenging the players, trusting the players, as we look to develop a different style and the players buy into it.
“From what I have seen so far, the players look like they are up for it.”
This weekend, City host Skelmerdale United at Giant Axe for what will certainly be their toughest game of pre-season so far.
“Skem are only a division below so it should be a decent test,” said Brown.
“Dave Powell has got some good, young players there – he knows what he’s doing.
“They will be energetic with some decent quality, so we will look to continue our method and develop a style that we want to adapt in the league.”
Meanwhile, Brown is hopeful of signing a new goalkeeper in time for the visit of Skem.
Since Elliot Wynne left at the end of last season, City have been short of a No.1 but they are on the trail of a young keeper, who is currently attached to a Premier League club and also played for England Schoolboys.